The Dallas Stars continue to roll, making it four straight wins and seven in their past eight games with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center Thursday night.
Jason Spezza’s goal off a Washington turnover with 8:50 remaining snapped a 2-2 tie and propelled the Stars to their fifth straight road win and ninth victory in the past ten games away from home. Overall, they are 16-4-0 on the season and are off to the best 20-game start in franchise history. Their 32 points are tops in the NHL.
“The start has been really good,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “There have been a few games that have been tighter. We’ve gotten down, but we’ve been able to battle back. We have a few things going. Our power play is going good. It wasn’t so good tonight, but, for the most part, that part of the game has helped us win a lot of hockey games. Our goaltending has won us games and really the depth of scoring, even tonight again, helped us win a game.”
Thursday night in Washington, the Stars found a way to win another tight game. For the sixth time in eight games (6-2-0) this season they prevailed when tied after two periods. And they didn’t crack when Washington tied the game in the third after the Stars had grabbed a 2-1 lead.
“We’ve been in many of these this season, and we believe we can get it done,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “We didn’t panic when they tied it. That’s nice.”
Lehtonen stopped 33 shots for his sixth straight win and his ninth in ten decisions this season. Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin also scored for the Stars, and John Klingberg registered two assists.
“We didn’t play our best game today, but we found a way to win. That’s one of our strengths right now,” Klingberg said.
The Capitals lost in regulation for the second time in the past seven games (4-2-1) and fell to 12-5-1 on the season. Alex Ovechkin scored his 484th career goal, making him the leading Russian-born goal scorer in NHL history.
“Sooner or later I knew it was going to go. Of course you get a little frustrated when you have good chances go, especially in the second [period] when I hit the post,” Ovechkin said. “I think it was an important goal for us – put us back in the game – but I think we deserved more today, at least a point.”
The Stars opened the scoring 9:28 into the game when Klingberg set up Seguin, who scored from the slot off the rush. Washington challenged the goal, contending that Patrick Sharp interfered with goaltender Philipp Grubauer. But the goal counted and the Stars had a 1-0 lead.
The Stars had a chance to extend the lead with the first power play of the game late in the first, but the Capitals killed it off and then scored less than a minute later to tie the game. Nicklas Backstrom scored when his rebound attempt hit Stars defenseman Jordie Benn and went into the net at 17:40 of the first period.
There was no scoring in the second, but there were some close calls. Tom Wilson and Ovechkin hit posts for Washington; Jamie Benn hit a post for Dallas. Lehtonen had several sharp saves, including a huge stop late in the period on a wide open Jay Beagle from the slot.
The Stars grabbed a 2-1 lead at 4:45 of the third when Klingberg slid along the blue line and put a shot on net that Eakin tipped past Grubauer.
“Klingberg is a special player,” Eakin said. “A lot of guys would have just shot it, but he’s got that extra instinct to get that guy out of the way. Most of his shots get through, and that’s when you can get the deflection or rebound.”
Washington tied it when Backstrom set up Ovechkin, who scored from close range to pass Sergei Fedorov for most goals scored by a Russian-born player at 7:01 of the third.
But the Stars took the lead for good a little more than four minutes later. Spezza picked off a Jason Chimera pass and rifled the puck past Grubauer from the right circle, pushing the Stars to their 16th win in 20 games.
*The Stars have won eight straight games against the Capitals, including five straight in Washington.
*Washington outshot the Stars 35-31 and had a 68-60 advantage in attempted shots.
*Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin co-led the Stars with five shots on goal each.
*The Stars did not take a penalty in the game.
*Thursday’s game was the second time this season the Stars have not been shorthanded in a game.
*The Stars were 0-2 on the power play.
*The Stars won 33 of 55 faceoffs (60 percent).
*Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin both won 6 of 8 faceoffs (75 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 11 (64 percent). Jason Spezza won 6 of 12 (50 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 15 (47 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with five blocked shots.
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 24:18 of ice time.
*Klingberg and Goligoski were both a plus-three in the game.
The Stars return to Dallas for a three-game homestand, taking on Buffalo, Ottawa and Vancouver.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.